Sociology of Religion in Portugal: a difficult emancipation process
Institute for Social Science University of Lisbon Lisbon, Portugal
The most important precursor of modern sociology of religion in Portugal is a kind of scientific branch that could be called "Roman Catholic sociology". Instigated by the Roman Catholic Church through the so-called Secretariado de Informação Religioso, the first empirical works on the religious situation in Portugal began to emerge in the late 1960s. The foremost aim of these studies was to carry out a sociological analysis of the increasing de-Christianisation. However, these studies were not simply aimed at making a theoretical-empirical description of what was happening, but rather they sought to find a means to invert this growing tendency. Which is to say that the first modern "sociological" studies into the religious situation in Portugal were closely connected to the Roman Catholic Church.
Considering that it was only from the mid-1990s onwards that sociological studies began to be more independent, it should be acknowledged that sociology of religion in Portugal is a comparatively young discipline. A further difficulty is the fact that social sciences as a whole in Portugal continue not to attribute great importance to recent studies in sociology of religion perhaps as a result of its historical background. Consequently, it faces a doubly complicated situation. On the one hand, it still finds it hard to detach itself completely from the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, while on the other hand, it still needs to achieve recognition and its proper place among the social sciences. Some of the key strategies to solve these problems mainly involve the reformulation of theoretical questions and the reconfiguration of empirical studies. There have been recent theoretical and empirical attempts to redefine the field of the sociology of religion in Portugal. Therefore the main aim of my communication is to describe the current situation of the sociology of religion in Portugal and to put forward current strategies so that sociology of religion may find itself properly and solidly established within the canon of social sciences in Portugal.